When Fear and Faith Collide: An International Adoption Story

November 24, 2014

Chris and Steph Wolf and their children Sally, Claire, and Elijah
This week I'm so excited to share a dear friend's story about international adoption. Steph and I connected in college, and although we no longer live close to each other, I love seeing the way God is moving in her life. A couple of years ago, she and her husband Chris adopted their son, Elijah, from Uganda. Here's their story:
Meeting their son in Uganda
God began stirring my heart for adoption at a young age. I remember my Cabbage Patch doll having an “adoption certificate” and being fascinated by that. As a college student, I babysat often for a family who had brought their daughter home from China. As a mom, one of my best friends is a foster mom that loves on many kids that stay for various lengths of time. I can look back now and see that these were all threads that God wove into the story of my life as a way to prepare me to be an adoptive mom.

In August 2011, my husband Chris and I knew God was prompting us to begin the adoption process and we were admittedly clueless. After an informational meeting with our agency, while Chris and I were driving home and discussing the various countries that were options, I said to him, “Anywhere but Africa.” Something about Africa invoked fear in me, and the thought of leaving our two little girls, then 4 and 1, at home to travel somewhere I had never been frightened me. Yet a few months later, when our agency began a pilot program in Uganda, we knew that it was the right fit as God took my fear and replaced it with peace, as he promises to do in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This was one of many times where God began teaching me that he is faithful to his promises.

Fast-forward to early summer 2012 when we received “the call” letting us know that they had a referral for us. Since we had a wide age range listed in our homestudy and hadn’t specified gender, we were eager and somewhat nervous to see and read about our future son or daughter. Would you believe that the little guy in the picture was named “Elijah,” the same name we had chosen for ourselves, had we had a biological son? Once again, the Lord was confirming to me that he was truly establishing each step and to continue to walk in faith.

A short three months later in October 2012, we traveled to meet our son and attend court. Knowing this would be one of two trips (in Uganda there are a few weeks and even months in between a court date and when a visa can be obtained to bring your child home), I became anxious about meeting Elijah only to have to leave and return weeks later. God continued to fill me with peace as we prepared for the trip and showed me grace when I began to allow fear to creep into my heart. Matt Redman’s song, “Never Once,” became my heart’s song, filling me with the reminder that we were not walking alone.
Meeting Elijah was a somber yet joyful time. I remember him so tentatively approaching us, eyes down. While I longed to gather him in my arms and share with him how excited we were to meet him, I realized that while this was a joyous time for us, this was a grievous and confusing time for him. It was a difficult few days as we struggled to live in a different culture and overcome language barriers. Our first days together were spent attending appointments and court, while grasping at ways to shower and show love to our son in any way we could--which often took on the form of Hot Wheels cars, a soccer ball, and M&M’s! There were late night conversations spent trying to figure out if one of us could stay and the other return home as we began to realize how difficult it would be to leave Elijah and return home without him. During that time, Hebrews 11:1 began to speak to me, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” While we couldn’t see how things would turn out, we knew with certainty that God was in control. In late November, we returned to Uganda and were able to fly home with Elijah a few weeks later (only 22 hours of flights; what a trooper he was!).

Upon arriving home, we didn’t plan a big “hurrah” at the airport, nor did we have a big celebration at our home. Every adoptive situation is different and so I am not implying that what was right for us is the “right” decision for any adoptive parent, but in the short time I had known Elijah, I was certain that such celebrations, at that point, would not have been a positive experience. I mention this because it exposes what became the biggest challenge for me as an adoptive mom: placing what was in Elijah’s best interests above my own desires. I failed time and time again as I began striving to not only love Elijah well, but also to maintain the commitments and relationships I had before he came home.
Slowly, through God’s grace, we began to find a new rhythm as a family and he began to thrive. We still have our hard days and we still fail, but God’s grace is seeing all of us through. He has shown us how he alone is able to bring healing to even the deepest places of a heart. Elijah’s laughter filling our house, his growing trust of us as his parents, and his increasing sense of peace in place of fear is evidence to God’s healing power in his life. 

There were many resources that were valuable at various points during the process, including Jen Hatmaker’s blog (specifically “After the Airport") Karyn Purvis’s book The Connected Child and the Empowered to Connect conference that she leads, as well as Facebook groups that addressed adoption ethics. The most valuable resource to our family really proved to be the community of people that surrounded us with prayer, help, and support throughout the process and after coming home.

With November being National Adoption Month, it's a good reminder to seek the Lord and ask him what role he wants you to play in caring for orphans. I saw this video the year we began our adoption process and it continues to break my heart as I think upon the children who are still waiting to be a part of a family. Not sure where to start? Check out Bethany Christian Services “These 400.” 

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27

If you'd like to read the rest of our adoption series this month, be sure to check out our other posts: 5 Ways to Support Orphans, Chosen One: An Adoptee's Story, and A 13-year-old's Perspective on His Adoption from Foster Care.

Today we're linking up with MADM.

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